For 15 years, Wes Welker has played football for teams in Lubbock, Texas; suburban Boston and now Denver. But Welker’s favorite basketball team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 1999 Heritage Hall High School graduate loves the Thunder and during Super Bowl week was asked about the Thunder and the hot stretch of OKC superstar Kevin Durant.
“It’s been pretty phenomenal just watching him out there,” Welker said. “They had (Russell) Westbrook go down, and so your key players have got to step up, and he’s definitely stepped up in a major way. It’s been really fun to watch and he’s great for Oklahoma City, not just as a player, but as a person. They definitely appreciate him there.”
Can Welker, who has had his share of hot streaks, relate to the “zone” in which Durant seems to be in?
“Yeah, I think every athlete at some point or another has been in the zone like that,” Welker said. “Just having to carry over from game to game like he has is pretty incredible. I look forward to him keeping that going throughout the year.”
I wrote about Welker for the Friday Oklahoman. You can read that column here.
But Welker had a lot to say about a variety of subjects. I’m going to write more about Welker for the Sunday paper, but there’s plenty of stuff that won’t make, either, so I thought I would share it.
On his Super Bowl experience being an advantage. Welker has played in two Super Bowls. The entire Seahawk roster has played in a combined zero: “Maybe a little bit. Just trying to give some guys insight of what this week is like, the media obligations and the traveling to practice and not being at the facility through the week and different things like that. It’s definitely different and something that you kind of have to get used to.”
On the Seahawks’ defense biggest strength: “Their whole defense is a big strength. That’s why they’re the No. 1 defense. Obviously their back end and defensive backfield is definitely up there. They do a great job across the board of playing pretty sound defense and staying on top of it. So we’re definitely going to have our hands full.”
On the Bronco receivers, five of whom caught at least 10 touchdown passes this season: “I think everybody has their own opinion and everything, but this is one of the best groups I’ve ever played with. It’s the NFL. There’s a lot of good receiving groups. Every team is going to have good receiving groups in the NFL.”
On his many concussions: “I think they do a good job of the protocols and different things like that these days. But we’re football players, we’re competitors and you want to be out there playing. You want to be out there on the field and giving your best for your team. It’s kind of a tough issue sometimes and you just go out there and deal with it and try to keep yourself safe, but at the same time, given the chance to go compete, you go compete.”
On what Welker does the Saturday night before a big game: “I think basically just relaxing and going over my gameplan and being on to of all that. Making sure that I’m just ready to go. Make sure I’m getting my massages and stretched out and ready to go for Sunday.”
On if he’s slept the night before previous Super Bowls: “Yeah, I have. I think just knowing the past, going through the week and preparation and everything else, you’re ready to get some sleep and make sure you’re ready to go for Sunday.”
On his plans for Sunday morning: “My plan for Sunday morning is just like any other game. Just focusing and getting ready for the game and treating it like any other regular season game.”
On his pre-game rituals: Welker said he likes to arrive at the stadium early, four hours before kickoff. Listen to the Kings of Leon and get his mind ready for the game.
On how he’s handled Super Bowl hoopla, which for Welker has meant five straight days, Sunday through Thursday, of media sessions: “You try to make it as normal as possible. Just try and focus on the game, focus on the week and the gameplan and just getting ready for it. You deal with it how you can.”
On Denver coach John Fox: “He’s one of those guys, he’s very inspirational, a very motivational type guy. The energy he brings to the team and everything like that. The guy can talk to anybody. You sit down at lunch and he can just sit there and talk and talk and talk. I mean, he’s that way with everyone. Just a great man, a great individual. I’m glad he’s our coach and our leader.”
On Fox’s heart problems, which kept him away from the Broncos for four games this season: “I wouldn’t say he was different at all. He came back feeling healthier than he was before. So obviously, he’s our guy and he brings that energy and at the time we were just worried about his health and making sure that he was all good. We just told him, we’ll take care of everything on our end and you just get right and get back when you’re ready.”
On playing with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady: “It’s kind of by design. There’s just not too many quarterbacks I’d actually play with. So, when it came down to it, it was two options. This has been a good one.”
On what people don’t know about Manning: “He’s actually a very genuine person. A great teammate, he loves hanging out with the guys and being around the guys, camaraderie and everything else. He enjoys it. It makes you enjoy it as well.”
On his relationship with Brady: “We just text after the game and stuff like that, but he’s a good friend of mine and we wish nothing but the best for each other.”
On if it was bitter or sweet to beat the Patriots in the AFC title game: “I think a little bit of both. Obviously playing there and everything like that, you make a lot of relationships and a lot of friends and you wish the best for them. But, at the same time you’re excited about the opportunity you have in front of you.”
On the impact of the weather, which doesn’t figure to be as severe as previously feared: “I feel good about it. I played in this for six years so I have a good idea of what to expect and what to be ready for, different things like that. It really didn’t feel too bad out there just walking over here to this boat and things like that. I’m looking forward to it, this is what football is supposed to be.”
On throwing the ball in bad weather: “I’ve seen a lot of games where they’ve been able to throw for a lot of yards in bad weather. I don’t see that being a problem for us. I just see us going out there and executing our plays and not worrying about the weather or anything else. Just have the mindset that we’re going to move the ball and score touchdowns.”
On his most memorable cold weather game: “Really there are so many to choose from. I remember we played the Jets one time in 2007 later in the year, low scoring game. It was tough. We had another one in Buffalo where we had 70 mile per hour winds. They had to take a rope and pull the field goal post back upright so that we could kick extra points and field goals and different things like that. I remember the receivers, we would just rotate and we would be throwing each other jackets. There would only be one receiver in the game because we really couldn’t throw the ball. Just basically, ‘Here you take my jacket, now you get over here and get warm, I’ll go in this play.’ We would rotate three of us the whole game.”